Nicholas J. Frederick is an assistant professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He holds a Ph.D in the History of Christianity with an emphasis in Mormon Studies from Claremont Graduate University. Nick is the author of The Bible, Mormon Scripture, and the Rhetoric of Allusivity (FDU Press, 2016). He has agreed to participate in the JI’s semi-regular series, Scholarly Inquiry, by answering questions about his book.
What led you to write The Bible, Mormon Scripture, and the Rhetoric of Allusivity?
While working on my Ph.D at Claremont Graduate University, I started getting into Intertextuality, in particular the intertextuality between the New Testament and Mormon Scripture. I was fascinated by the questions that were raised when the Book of Mormon or the D&C would quote or allude to the writings of John or Paul or Matthew. Why did Mormon Scripture rely on the Bible for its text? Did the New Testament context matter, or was it largely a rhetorical appropriation? How does the presence of a New Testament passage affect the context of the Book of Mormon or D&C? And how does this intertextuality impact our understanding of Joseph Smith’s translation process? There had already been a fair amount done with tracking where the New Testament quotations and allusions were in Mormon Scripture, but outside of a couple of articles, David Wright’s in particular, not as much had been done examining how the New Testament was being used in Mormon Scripture. That became the topic of my dissertation, which I then worked into monograph form for publication.
In two sentences, what is the argument of the book?
The argument, essentially, is this: The use of the New Testament in Mormon Scripture, I believe, goes beyond simply a rhetorical appropriation (although I do think that is part of it). What is remarkable about Mormon Scripture is how not only the text but also the context of the New Testament text is carried over into the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, and at times the context is expanded upon to introduce additional meaning.
Why do we need to read The Bible, Mormon Scripture, and the Rhetoric of Allusivity?
You are having trouble sleeping? Or because I hope this book brings a greater awareness to the role of the Bible in the composition and interpretation of Mormon Scripture. It is undeniable that the text of the Bible is present, and I think for too long Mormons have struggled with why it is there, often seeing it as something detrimental to the text. What I try to do is show how the connections between the Bible and Mormon Scripture should be embraced and studied at a much deeper level than has previously been done.
When and why did you decide to become a scholar of religion?
I started out as a Classics major when I came to BYU, mainly because I wanted to learn how to read the New Testament in Greek and I was fascinated by the ancient world. When I got to BYU and experienced the academic side of the study of religion through my study of ancient languages, texts, and history, it became an area of study that appealed to me, especially when I thought about doing it as a career. My time at Claremont Graduate University, a school that promoted such a great learning environment when it came to the study of religion, really solidified things for me.
What is your next monograph?
I just finished a book with Mike MacKay on Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones and how Joseph develops a theology of Seer Stones. After that, I plan on writing a book that addresses more broadly Joseph Smith’s use of the New Testament. My first monograph only looked at the Prologue of the Gospel of John, and I want to find a way to broaden the scope to include the entire New Testament but in a way that can be developed in a single volume.
Questions adapted from John Fea’s fantastic Authors Corner series.